Harvest House is more than payout price

From seed supplier to packer – the entire potato/vegetable/fruit chain attended the Harvest House party yesterday. On the beach at Hook of Holland a moment was taken for reflection on the past and especially the future of the cooperative. The organization did pause to consider whether this was the right time for a celebration. ‘With the disappointing prices and the boycott, and trade in the doldrums,’ summed up chair Theo van Vliet. ‘But that is not why we are here today. We are focused on the speck on the horizon. Adversity is not something we will only face today, but in the future too. But we have worked to build Harvest House together and are focused on our future.’

Source of healthy life
For Jelte van Kammen, the rain in recent weeks and the beautiful weather yesterday were symbolic of the less prosperous period of the recent past and the future that awaits Harvest House. ‘We worked together as a cooperative for many years under FresQ, yet it became increasingly clear that “Common Organisation of Markets” had a limiting effect for the future. In August 2012 we still believed we would be able to resolve the problems, but in 2013 it became clear that FresQ was not the future. Together with the members of three growers’ associations – FrEsteem, Rainbow, and PaprikaXL – we have reoriented. Do we all want the same thing?’ said Van Kammen about the origin of the association. The reorientation resulted in a clear vision: that Harvest House wants to be the source of a healthy life and wants to collectively offer growers the best returns.

Unity within the cooperative
In order to achieve this, various strategies have been developed. With the aim of becoming Europe’s fruit vegetable specialist, the cooperative aims to provide the greatest possible year-round quality and improve efficiency year after year through process optimization. Members are also working hard to achieve unity within the cooperative. Accordingly, Harvest House places great importance on transparency. ‘Members are free to look at every aspect of each other’s operation, such as which market segments they target and their performance figures. This enables us to keep each other sharp and eliminates any suspicion between members. They are Harvest House.’ It is therefore also the intention to radiate that unity and jointly promote Harvest House as a brand. The growers are involved in this aspect as well. ‘Not promoting their own companies but rather Harvest House as a whole,’ explains Van Kammen.
Within the organization, the focus is on continuity and long-term agreements. ‘We want long-term commitment from growers and employees. Previous cooperatives are sometimes said to have been nothing more than a gilded cage. We want to avoid that.’ The strategy is discussed with growers. ‘We now have a group of members that are willing to stick it out when, for a period, the payout price may not be the highest in the market. As Harvest House we want to be more than that. We want to jointly focus on the long term.’

The cooperative has also devoted considerable energy to the sales strategy. Van Kammen regularly receives questions about the trading companies Harvest House takes part in. ‘As Harvest House we do not want to be interchangeable. We want to create and maintain market access. For us that is only possible if we make no distinction between our “own” companies and the rest of our customers,’ says Van Kammen.

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